VANCOUVER — She’s been an artist for 50 years, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that Joy Caros began painting the portraits of Israeli presidents and prime ministers.
Joy Caros and her husband James Rawlings
Last month she donated them to the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University (CFHU), and the portraits, which arrived in Israel a couple of weeks ago, will soon be on permanent display in the Knesset.
Caros couldn’t be happier.
“This is the ultimate honour for me,” she said in an interview in Vancouver. “All the dignitaries that visit Israel will see the portraits of the men who made Israel, and that’s important. Israel needs to have its prime ministers up there on the government walls, signifying that this is a valid country. That’s what this collection stands for.”
Although they’re both Christians, Caros and her husband, James Rawlings, are strong supporters of Israel.
“We believe God gave that land to the Jewish people, and it should stay that way,” Rawlings said.
Caros agreed. “I think [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is awesome, and I’m anxious to meet him,” she said.
“I think he’s the best thing that happened to Israel, and he’ll fight for the land.”
Caros may have an opportunity to meet Netanyahu when she travels to Israel in May and is honoured at an event to be held by CFHU.
To date, she has painted 18 portraits of Israeli leaders and still has another three to go. Each one takes approximately one month to complete and the portraits have been independently valued at $9,500 each by the Petley-Jones Gallery in Vancouver.
The portraits were created as a gift for Israel, and the majority of them were completed between 1998 and 2000, Caros said.
“I felt this was something I could do for Israel, because they didn’t have portraits of their prime ministers and presidents like most countries do,” she explained. “My husband and I are Zionists and we love Israel, so I thought, ‘Let me do this as a gift to the country.’”
Jews have helped her throughout her career, Caros added.
Stanley Kramer commissioned her to paint the characters of the film It’s a Mad, Mad World in the 1960s, and in Vancouver, she has worked closely with Joseph Cohen of Sony, as well as families such as the Segals, Wosks, Adlers and Malicks.
She’s also done portraiture for Hollywood stars such as Spencer Tracy, Jonathan Winters and Sammy Davis Jr., and is presently doing a series on the chefs of Vancouver.
Born in Trail, B.C., and a mother to seven children, Caros started out sketching pastel portraits of Vancouver diners.
Her work has taken her all over the world, and she has lived in California, the Caribbean, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, France and Israel, but she returned to Vancouver to be closer to her 18 grandchildren.
Still, this octogenarian is eager to continue making her art and plans to paint and travel in the years to come.
“Nowadays, more and more people want portraits, because an artist can breathe life into a portrait and make the subject more alive than photography can,” she said.
“I’ve met some wonderful people all over the world doing this,” she added. “The Bible says your talent will put you before kings, and that is what’s happened.”